The War on Christmas

We are raising the ante in our culture war against Christmas. My local cell of agmystics is planning a devastating volley against St Nick and the baby soap* On Christmas eve at precisely midnight we strike - none of us will show up for any midnight church services! The media will be in a twitter.

(The baby soap: When my daughter was 31/2 her grandparents gave her a very contemporary nativity scene. She was playing with it and when my father in law asked her what it all was she described all the pieces except for the soap which was a bit of a mystery. We finally figured out that the little figure of a baby embedded in the manger thingy looked just like a bar of soap to her. From then on over the years we have always referred to it as the baby soap... Another reason I'm going to hell....)


Harvey said...

"Warring" on Christams might not be necessary if Christians did not feel the need to impose it on the general public. I would have much less objection to being either a minority group member or a non-believer in a largely Christian world, were it not for the insistance of some of them to "bear witness" in ways that do not permit me to choose to ignore them. Even having been incessantly "visited" almost every Saturday (in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood I grew up in) by earnest young men wanting to "bring me into the fold of Christ's blessings" was acceptable and understood. Insistance upon public, tax supported displays of an entirely religious nature, on the other hand, really sticks in my craw. This is most abundantly apparent at this time of year, when active dialogue goes on as to whether or not one should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" (For God's sake, who cares!!) It seems to me that Christmas, as it is practised by most people in the United States today, has very little to do with Christ any more. The parts of this celebration that do still pertain to Christ are and should be practised in Churches and people's homes.
This is, in part, from a post I made recently on another well followed blog, but this part seems to apply to this one.

Richelle said...

you gotta love kids. soap baby, that's priceless.

a perplexing xmas dilemma:

i've been discussing with my fiance the option of not carrying on the traditional santa myth with my son. i would really prefer to just explain to him where the story of santa came from and why it has become a tradition instead of telling him a fat man really is breaking into our house then him having to find out one day from some kid at school that santa isn't real.

this is the first year that he's actually been subjected to a lot of the santa talk (mostly by the soon to be parents-in-law, who are very christian). and i reluctantly agreed to not have my santa myth discussion with my son this year because we are spending xmas with my fiance's sister & her husband, who have deeply embedded the santa myth in the minds of their 2 daughters, and nobody wants me to ruin it for them should korbin mention to them that santa didn't really bring any presents.

i, personally, don't really see that as my problem and am a little perturbed that i have to play along even though it makes me feel dishonest, but at least it's only for this xmas.

what do you guys think? am i out of line here in being bothered by having to go along with this despite my wishes? am i really obligated to play up a lie for the benefit of someone else's kids just because it would be too difficult for them to have to explain why they made up some fabricated story about a fat man in a red suit?

and speaking of the "merry christmas" vs. "happy holidays" battle that harvey mentioned, i have a funny story about that:

xmas before last i was working at lowe's and all the employees were told that we had to say "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas" if we were going to give any sort of holiday greeting at all. also, the christmas trees that we sold didn't say "christmas tree" on the box, they said "holiday tree".

well one day i wandered across the aisle from my happy little home in the tools department to go chat for a second with my friend randy who worked in plumbing and had just gotten through dealing with a difficult customer. i asked him what the big deal was and he said the man was complaining to him because we didn't sell any christmas trees. randy told the guy "yeah we do. we have plenty of trees. they're right down there in the seasonal department." then the man angrily told randy that all the boxes said "holiday tree" and he refused to buy one unless the box said "christmas tree" because he was sent by his pastor to buy a tree for the church and he could not buy a tree for the church that was not a "christmas tree". randy told him he could simply set the tree up and throw the box away and nobody would know the difference and the man stormed off as if randy had just drop kicked baby jesus.

Harvey said...

Since my kids are Jewish (as was their mother, my first wife), we have had some experience with the Santa conundrum.
All of our kids were allowed to enjoy the Santa myth, up to about the age of 3 or 4. At that point, in all three cases when they began to question the myth, they were told that Santa is a very nice way of reminding people that children need to try to be "good" (for which read kind to others and at least somewhat generous with each other) as much of the year as possible. We told them that the "Santas" they saw on every street corner were obviously not the "real" Santa, but that they were there (like the story of Santa) as a symbol and a reminder of what a nice time of year it could be if everyone remembered to be kind to everyone else. If you think the Santa myth presents difficulties, imagine what some of us went through trying to explain "Baby Jesus" to little kids who did not yet realize the impact that Judaism was having (and would continue to have) on their growing up in a Christian world! The good news (perhaps) is that my two married children who have, thus far, provided us with three granchildren between them, have decided on exactly the same approach in dealing with Santa as we did. Incidentally, both of my married children are married to Christians (as is my second wife, who actually helped raise all of them).

Michael Lockridge said...

As a Christian visitor here, I find the "Baby Soap" story endearing. Very human, very real, and cute.

Technically, people go to Hell for being unrepentant sinners, not for specifics that they do. The other side of the coin is that believers go to Heaven not as a result of what they do, but what Jesus did. End of point.

I find the war on Christmas interesting. There are many Christians who also war on the commercial "holiday." Little changes. It is ingrained in the culture, and will change as culture changes.

There is always "Festivus." (sp?)

As to modifying your own holiday traditions (or tradition of non-tradition) just to accommodate others, I say do your own thing. I am not a big fan of "protecting" children from the ideas of other people. If your own beliefs are so delicate they need to be rethought.

Hey, have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, a Sensational Solstice, or just a Nice Day.


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I love lying to kids. It's a tough one but I think sometimes we as adults forget the value and joy associated with magical thinking that we had as kids. Magical thinking is only bad if you don't ever grow out of it. I believed in the Easter bunny and Santa at one point and I don't feel scarred by it in the least. For me all that remains are the great memories associated with the anticipation. The fact that my parents, poor as they were (financially - not in any other way) pulled all the right strings in later years has become even more magical to me than any magic elf.

And it's helped me to tell my parents some of the things they deserved to hear. About 6 years ago I had to leave a job or allow myself to be used to justify some unethical actions by a supervisor. I had to scramble and ended up only making $19,000 in that year. Christmas at our house was a real gift of the Magi affair that year. Only because of a gift of $100 dollars each from my parents for our Christmas present were my wife and I able to scrounge up enough to get my daughter some gifts. She thought Santa brought them and as it turned out she was right. I called Santa later that day and thanked him for the sacrifices he had quietly made so that we all could have a great Christmas.It was funny and sounds trite but her wonderment and joy was better than any other gift I could have gotten that very hard year.
Year have passed and when we talk of Santa she winks and asks which one (Mom, Dad, the grandparents, etc.) but it is still a magical time for us.

She learned to not fear the dark using magical thinking. One of the things we did when she was very young was to play a game of name the thing in the dark. We would look at the room in the light then turn off the light and try to remember what each shadow was. There are these huge Doug Firs outside her window that always moved in the wind. I told her that they were standing guard for me and the moving branches were their way of signaling me how she was doing since they couldn't walk. The echoes in the vents in our house let us know how she was sleeping and if she sounded fussy I would go check on her. When she asked me how I knew, I'd say 'the trees told me'. Then off to sleep she would go.

Yeah, I guess you could argue that I lied to my kid. I'd like to think she was the better for it. It's a tough one for each parent to decide.

Sorry for the ramble but Christmas magic works even for a diehard agmystic such as myself.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks for your comments Mike. Hopefully everyone got the tongue in cheek nature of my post. Christmas is one of those things that can work minor miracles if we are open to it. And by open I don't mean as a religious holiday per se but as a time to try to give back to the world some of what we take. To our family, friends, and perfect strangers. It is an embodiment of the golden rule which is a pretty good thing regardless of where it came from.

My very dearest and oldest friend and I found a way to use the season to help each set of kids. We celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah together.

Saint Brian the Godless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saint Brian the Godless said...

My wife and I have discussed the Santa thing and we're not gonna do it. I know it's so cute and all, but I just can't see telling my own child an outright lie as somehow being a good thing nomatter how cute. I still remember when I found out that Santa wasn't real. I was six. Why do I remember it so well? Because on that day I can clearly recall saying to myself, "Wow, I didn't know that my parents would ever lie to me! Wow! I guess I can't trust them." I remember being stunned. Very hurt. And angry at them because they were laughing about it all, laughing about telling me a lie.

My wife has a son already, my stepson now, and when she finally told him (long before I met them) that Santa wasn't real he refused to talk to her for two weeks. So his reaction was very similar to mine.

I'm not going to lie to a child, especially not to my child, for my own amusement.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

It's interesting how differently people respond to life events. The Santa myth was a great memory for me and obviously very different for others.

Richelle said...

thanks for all your input you guys. i've actually decided, after a chat with my older brother, that i'm not even going to make my son live through the santa myth this year just for the benefit of someone else's kids. i am, however, going to explain the story behind it and the importance of the tradition and that it's alright to let people pretend that santa is real. and after hearing about harvey's experience, i think that was an excellent way to deal with the santa dilemma.

my emotions after learning there was no santa were similar to brian's. my brother and i had gotten in an argument when i was young and he told me santa wasn't real. i told him he was lying and i would prove it by asking our mom and when i went to ask her she tried explaining that santa wasn't real but that it didn't matter, but the damage had been done. i was so upset and i felt so stupid for having ever believed it in the first place.

for many years christmas just wasn't the same for me. the myth of santa had become the most important part of the holiday and because i knew he wasn't real anymore and nobody had ever explained to me the true story behind santa and the importance of the tradition the fun of it all was dead.

i know some people see no harm in encouraging their kids to believe in something that isn't real, but i know my son better than anyone and i'd bet my life that if i started the santa myth with him he would be really upset once he found out it was a lie.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Everybody has to raise their own kids as they think best. I think that there is a huge difference from participating in the cultural mythology of childhood with my children, from lying about what's important in the world. I sat through many a 'tea' with my daughter and praised the deliciousness of the ethereal brew which she poured for me. We also talked about any and all topics she heard about but in an age appropriate manner. There have never been any taboo subjects in our house so she has always come home to ask her mom or I about things she experiences. She's grown up to be a splendid and happy young lady and seems no worse for having had a very rich fantasy life as a young child. In that she takes after her old man.

Michael Lockridge said...

Well, if you want to share the whole truth about Santa, I uncovered a bit of dirt that I incorporated into a short story last year.

It is factual, but I disguised it in the form of a story to hide my discovery from the Fat Man.

He scares me.



mac said...

I'm with ya Pliny.
Let's all not go to mass(or the religion of our dischoice) together.

Richelle, he is your son. If you have issues with lieing to him, then, by all means, don't.

Maybe the Santa lie is just another one of those Bullshit myths we all need to let go of...like Jesus, the Easter Bunny, God(s), Sasquatch, Nessie or ever catching the Goddess I have been chasing.

Richelle said...


i definitely agree that children should be able to pretend. i used to tape paper wings onto my toy horses when i was little because i wanted them to be pegasus. my brother and i would pretend the vacuum cleaner attachments were weapons and shoot evil villains with them. we would also pretend that sleeping bags were sleds and would ride them down the stairs :)

i see no harm in letting kids pretend (well, maybe except for sleeping bags down the stairs). it is actually quite beneficial. and even though i've told my son santa doesn't really visit our house on xmas, we can still pretend that he does. we'll both know that he isn't really going to come, but it'll still be fun.

also, i think it's great that you had such great communication with your daughter. i never had that with my mom growing up so i've always wanted my son to be able to come to me about anything at all.


that is disturbing. where did you get that information? i'm thinkin i'm gonna leave that part of the story out of the santa discussion.


with your talk of chasing goddesses and having erotic, sadistic bondage fantasies with sex crazed midgets i'm starting to wonder if we should all be looking for a lady for you.

so, pray tell, what kind of females do you like? maybe someone knows someone who might take kindly to a randy gentleman like yourself ;)

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Mac I'm guessing the goddess would have to like Harley's.

Richelle - I wish my kids would have come with instructions but I like to think that most of us do the best that we can often with the baggage of our own experiences. All I ever wanted for the kids is that they be happy and better people than I am.

They are a treat - but I often find myself flipping back and forth from being willing to die for them to being ready to kill them myself ;)

mac said...

I am chasing one now, Richelle.

I will catch her soon, I'm sure....then I'll really be in trouble :-)

Richelle said...

oooow mac, you stud!!

thrill of the chase is always so much fun. happy hunting! ;)

Kodiak said...

My kids (now teens) informed me that they were terrified as children because I told them that there were alligators in the bathroom drains. I don't recall actually doing this, but in retrospect it does seem plausible. They used to drive me nuts pulling the plug in the bathtub after they were in there for about 30 seconds...before they had even wet their hair. (Jeeze, now I can't get them OUT of the bathroom!!) In frustration, I must have made up the alligator thing in a desperate attempt to keep them in the tub.
I did the Santa/tooth fairy thing with all my kids. Not the Easter Bunny though...he always scared the crap out of me as a kid. My girls both tell me they remember being disappointed when they found out it was all a sham.
I remember when I was a kid I went to a church that was very sparsely decorated, except for a huge wooden cross that hung on the wall. One of the teen girls tried explaining about the holy ghost, and I somehow got it into my head that the holy ghost lived in the church and was hiding behind that huge cross, just waiting for me to screw up so he could fly out and get me. So much for the comfort of religion. yeesh.

GearHedEd said...

Pliny said,
"I believed in the Easter bunny and Santa at one point and I don't feel scarred by it in the least."

See what a subjective viewpoint will do to ya?